Travel and Booking APIs for Online Travel and Tourism Service Providers
Back in 2017, TripAdvisor and comScore suggested that travelers make 10 to 34 website visits on average to book their trips. While this seems like a lot for booking hotels, for instance, travelers visit only 4.4 unique websites, according to the study by Fuel and Flip.to. People prefer to make their reservations through ‘all-in-one-place’ platforms. They’ve reshaped user experience unifying and eventually simplifying it for average travelers.
One of the reasons is that travel industry players have become a lot more open to sharing data with each other. A good example of this is Uber which in 2014 allowed third parties to incorporate the Request the ride functionality in their applications. Today, your local sightseeing app can let users commute from one landmark to another without switching apps.
The main types of travel APIs and how they work
In tech terminology, the key to this growing connectivity is the API. Application programming interface allows for connecting data streams and functionalities between different software products. APIs work as control panels for developers to link different software components without dealing with source code. What does this mean for the travel industry? If you run a hotel business, you can let your customers rent a car straight from your website by integrating your room reservation engine with available local car rental providers. This may put a car-rental commission in your pocket or just make your customer’s life easier by eliminating time browsing the web to rent a car.
So, let’s talk about the most important types of APIs used to unify travel industry features and information. Warning, it’s going to be a long read, so you may hop to one of the 13 sections that seem interesting by navigating the menu to the right, if you’re on a desktop:
- Flight search and booking by GDSs and OTAs
- NDC integration for merchandising and rich content
- Flight data, schedules, and fares
- Direct hotel booking with PMSs and channel managers
- Hotel booking with aggregators: GDSs, connectivity providers, and switches
- Wholesale hotel booking with bed banks
- Partner hotel booking with OTAs
- Hotel mapping
- Car rental booking
- Business travel management and expense tracking
- Reviews and ratings
- Tours, attractions, and experiences
- Public transportation
Rail booking APIs aren’t included here, but don’t despair, we do have a separate article for them.
GDS systems provide the widest data coverage, while you can find more task-specific APIs from niche companies.
Flight search and booking APIs by GDSs and OTAs
Main users: OTAs, TMCs, travel application providers
There are generally two main types of players that can help you with flight search, availability, and booking. First, there are global distribution systems (GDSs), the main aggregators in the industry. They go together with “aggregators of aggregators,” the systems that are built on top of GDSs to merge their offers. The second group are online travel agencies that also have affiliate programs to help smaller players enter the market. To learn more about flight distribution, check our video:
Flight distribution in a nutshell (by the way, subscribe to our channel. We’ll be releasing more such explainer videos)
Global distribution systems (GDSs) and flight aggregators. The main data source and reservation point of contact for online travel agencies are global distribution systems (GDSs). The GDS collects and consolidates travel data from a wide spectrum of service providers and allows agents to reserve airplane seats, rent cars, book hotel rooms, etc. This way travel agencies don’t have to directly connect with hundreds of airlines, hotels, and other end providers. They also provide APIs to integrate reservation support into OTA booking engines to let travelers book online.
GDSs mostly focus on five types of reservations:
- Airplane seats
- Hotel rooms
- Car rentals
- Cruise lines and ferries
Basically, there are three main GDS players on the market: Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport. According to Sabre, these three cover 99.9 percent of the GDS market share.
GDS market shares differ across regions
As a travel agency or any other travel business, you can use one of the GDS APIs or more to achieve broader coverage. Our client, online travel agency Fareboom, which provides its customers with a low-airfare search, uses multiple GDSs and private airfares from airlines directly. However, if your business model doesn’t revolve around the lowest fares, you may stick with using only GDS, without bothering to engage airlines directly. Amadeus, for example, claims to cover 95 percent of the global scheduled air seating.
NB: It’s interesting to note that a GDS reservation capacity isn’t necessarily equal to that supported in APIs. GDSs can be operated manually by travel agents that make reservations for their clients. APIs, on the other hand, exist to automate booking, excluding any manual efforts from the agent. Sometimes a GDS would provide broader services for manual booking compared to the API-based one. We’ll mention one such limitation in a bit.
Depending on the APIs you are going to use, you may consider their industry coverage
Going to a GDS or other aggregator usually allows you to book flights. But in order to ticket them and complete a reservation, you must either be IATA or ARC accredited. The other option is to negotiate with consolidators or host travel agencies who will ticket flights for you. Read more on non-accreditation ticketing options in the article that we wrote together with Amadeus.
Online travel agencies. If GDSs and aggregators are too pricey for you, start off by partnering with other travel agencies that offer affiliate programs and APIs. While this way isn’t as common as GDSs, it’s a viable option for small businesses, startups, or enthusiasts who need access to flight booking APIs.
So, who are some of the main players here?
Amadeus flight APIs
Amadeus is one of the major GDSs and originates from Europe. In November 2018, the company launched their new portal Amadeus for developers and decommissioned their old sets of APIs. (It’s better to use the word “sets” because there’s no single API for all data services available.) We asked Amadeus representatives for more detail. While some APIs are still in development, Fran Romero, Head of Open Innovation Programs at Amadeus, sounds optimistic about their new platform: “The Amadeus for Developers program is designed to speed up innovation and to inspire new ideas by empowering those at the forefront of travel, offering a quick and easy access to Amadeus travel APIs, and fostering collaboration across the community of developers. Through the new portal, developers can access Amadeus APIs alongside the tools, resources and support they need to build and launch their applications quickly.”
Currently, Amadeus APIs are shipped in two flavors: Self-service and enterprise.
Self-Service APIs. If you’ve been using the old Travel Innovation Sandbox, know that Self-Service APIs have come to replace them. Sandbox APIs were created for startups experimenting with GDS capabilities and couldn’t be used in production. As Alvaro Navarro, a Developer Advocate at Amadeus, notes, “The Self-Service APIs are designed to be used not only for prototyping, but also for commercial purposes, and the access to Production is fully automated with self-service processes.”
What can you do with them?
- Flight and fare search (including lowest fares, most booked destinations, cheapest dates, and so on)
- Flight booking
- Price and flight performance predictions (AI-based services)
- Hotel search and booking
- Airport and city search
- Destination content search
- Trip planning
“For the time being the Self-Service catalog includes some selected APIs for Air and Hotel, but we will be constantly expanding the categories and releasing new APIs.” – promises Alvaro.
However, ticketing can only be done through consolidators, and you don’t get access to negotiated or corporate fares. Self-service APIs support only public fares.
The APIs use REST/JSON standards. Both test and production uses have free request quotas. For testing purposes you can try all available APIs from this set for free with 2,000 – 10,000 monthly requests depending on a particular service. In production, you would have to pay € 0.0025 – € 0.0400 ($0.0027 – $0.043) for them. In production, the number of calls is unlimited but once you deplete your free quota, you have to pay € 0.003 – € 0.04 ($0.0037 – $0.049) per call depending on a specific API.
Enterprise APIs. These are the main set of Amadeus APIs targeting mature businesses building enterprise-scale travel applications. The APIs include:
- Flight booking and ticketing
- Car rentals and transfers
- Car rentals and transfers (private airport or taxi transfers, which is a new feature that we discussed in the July 2017 news and trends report)
- Travel insurance booking
- Booking management
- Queue management
- Payment management
- Customer profiles
Enterprise API sandbox provides over 100 APIs to test. Every type contains multiple APIs, some of which are purely informative like finding the lowest fares or searching flexible-schedule fares. Others are made for ticketing. This allows for greater adaptivity when configuring the set of services for your product. Enterprise APIs come both in REST/JSON and SOAP/XML formats. To check out pricing and get access, you have to contact Amadeus directly. And most likely there will be special requirements to use the services.
Sabre flight APIs
Sabre is another major GDS and the pioneer in the world of automated booking. There are literally hundreds of Sabre APIs that cover pretty much the same set of functions that Amadeus provides. In terms of flight distribution, Sabre offers:
- Flight search, including alternate dates or airports, basic fares, rules, etc.
- Flight booking and ticketing
- Payments and pricing
- Reservation management (itineraries, PNRs, etc.)
- Seat booking
- Reporting and intelligence data (e.g., top destinations, low fare history, and others)
They are available in REST and SOAP formats. The APIs division at Sabre is also similar to Amadeus’, including such categories as profiles, trip and session management, and utilities.
By the way, if you’re considering Sabre integration, you can contact us. In September, 2020, AltexSoft became Sabre’s authorized development partner after we had completed a number of integrations for agencies and other businesses.
Travelport flight APIs
Travelport unites three GDS systems: Apollo, Worldspan, and Galileo. While the systems have their own brand names, in terms of APIs, they are combined into a single Travelport Universal API. Unlike Amadeus and Sabre, the universal SOAP/XML API is a bundle of functions embraces three GDSs: Apollo, Worldspan, and Galileo with
- Air shopping and booking
- Fares and Ancillaries
- Air content and merchandising
- Seat maps
Travelport Trip Services API. This REST API generally overlaps with the previous one, but optimized for mobile search and booking. This means that it’s supposed to work faster. Since the API is in the early stage of development, you may not get the access to it, unless you’re an established Travelport partner. In terms of services, it has:
- Air search and booking
- Payments support
Additionally, Travelport suggests a Private Fares XML interface to upload your negotiated private fares that may not be available at Travelport 360.
If you want to dive deeper into the difference between GDSs, read our dedicated GDS article.
Travelfusion is a flight and accommodation aggregator that works with low-cost carriers and legacy airlines. The company actively supports IATA NDC initiative and offers XML APIs for travel agents and travel suppliers. You can search and book flights using their inventory.
FlightsLogic Flight API
FlightsLogic Flight API is a platform for service providers and travel agencies. The solution provides flight data, availability, fares, and payment features. The FlightsLogic Flight API connects users to over 200 low-cost carriers and over 750 airlines. The API can be integrated with apps and websites.
Kiwi.com is a Czech OTA known for its powerful flight search engine that sets connections and stopovers, processes low-cost flights, and connects to about 750 carriers, including over 250 low-cost carriers. You can use their API to find flight data and make bookings that earn commissions. The set of APIs (you have to register first) includes the following data:
- Carrier IDs and their logos
- Location data
- Standard flight search and multi city search
- Nomad search (visiting several cities without a particular order)
- Aggregated search
- Booking and payments
- Luggage booking
- NDC integration for merchandising and rich content
NDC integration for merchandising and rich content
Main users: OTAs aiming at distributing rich content, larger OTAs, innovative travel application providers
Read more here: NDC connections and APIs
Besides traditional flight booking, there’s a growing trend of flight merchandising and rich content (images, reviews, seat maps, etc.) to present carrier ancillary offers on third-party websites. These changes are advanced by airlines and IATA.
IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard based on XML allows carriers to offer rich content, a broader set of ancillaries, and personalization, things that were limited in GDS-centered distribution.
Initially, NDC was considered the way to bypass GDSs entirely and build carriers’ own APIs to directly connect to OTAs and TMCs (travel management companies). But things have changed and today there are three main ways to use NDC, including NDC implemented by GDSs.
GDSs NDC. Unsurprisingly global distribution systems aren’t excited about losing their market. While it’s hard to find actual NDC API documentation, you may directly contact Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport for NDC connection purposes. In most cases, NDC capabilities aimed at travel agencies and other resellers are in development, while GDSs focus more on helping airlines build NDC pipelines on their sides. We elaborate on how to implement NDC technology for airlines in our dedicated article.
NDC by tech providers. A number of industry’s leading technology companies like ATPCO, SITA, and Farelogix that we’ll talk about below have worked with airlines to build NDC APIs for them.
Sabre offers NDC connectivity to a select number of agencies, so don’t expect to get access to NDC APIs right away. If and when you do, you can enable:
- Offer shopping (including LCC offers)
- Validating prices
- Creating orders and canceling them
Depending on a specific airline, you can get rich content and personalized offer bundles. While carriers push their offers in XML – which is what NDC requires – Sabre provides the REST/JSON interface for using them.
Another thing to keep in mind is NDC APIs are in development and as of this writing they only support American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines.
Travelport’s NDC content, also in its infancy, offers the same few airlines as Sabre (i.e., American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines). To access NDC content via Travelport, you have to negotiate this type of connection both with Travelport and the airline itself. The capabilities are also somewhat similar to Travelport:
- Air search
- Booking, ticketing, and cancelations
- Seat reservation
NDC APIs here support both XML and JSON formats being also RESTful.
Farelogix is a technology company that cooperates with airlines and helps them build NDC pipelines, offer and order management engines. But their main product is FLX NDC API, a single gateway that allows airlines to distribute their NDC content across different sales channels.
Currently, the company has NDC connections with about 20 airlines, including Lufthansa, United, Qantas, Air Canada, Emirates, Austrian, and more.
To access NDC content, you have to negotiate NDC integration both with Farelogix and the airlines themselves.
ATPCO Routehappy content and NDC
Routehappy APIs offer content for sales channels. These JSON APIs provide information about amenities and distribute product and ticket attributes from 300 airlines. Some of this data comes via NDC channels. All Routehappy content can be divided into three groups:
- UPAs (Universal product attributes) — images, cabin descriptions, seat infographics, language translations, etc.
- Amenities — food and beverages, Wi-Fi, seatback videos, power outlets, etc.
- UTAs (Universal Ticket Attributes) — all ticket rules, including consolation allowances, upgrades, priority check in, etc.
SITA NDC Exchange
SITA is another technology provider that complements ATPCO in its NDC offerings. NDC Exchange is a marketplace of NDC APIs that connects airlines and travel distributors to enable offer and order management connectivity. NDC Exchange includes ATPCO’s Routehappy content as well.
The HitchHiker Flight API
The HitchHiker API distributes flight fares and ancillaries from 6 GDSs, 20 NDC airlines, and connects to 120 airlines directly, including low-cost carriers. Besides ancillaries and fares, it allows for flight booking, reservation management, and payment. The API is also available as a SaaS-solution.
tfFlight API by TravelFusion
tfFlight API is a booking and ancillary distribution API. This solution claims access to all low-cost carriers currently existing. The API supports NDC and airline merchandising engine integration.
Flight data, scheduls, and fares
Main users: OTAs, TMCs, data science and analytics groups working in the travel industry
Read more here: Flight and air booking APIs
Some OTAs and travel application providers strive to help travelers after booking is completed. For instance, the in-flight support app that we developed for Fareboom helps travelers with timely notifications before a departure, tracks flight status, and alerts about delays. To deliver such services, you have to retrieve in-depth details about flights, connections, and weather.
So, the final group of air travel related APIs are all connectivity options that help gather technical and specific flight data. For instance, Cirium (now owns Innovata and FlightStats) and OAG are global sources of flight scheduling data. And ATPCO is the main provider of fares, as airlines submit them directly to ATPCO, which in turn offers this data to GDSs and OTAs.
We also included fares here, as this set of providers can also support you with a lot of raw fare data. Most of this information comes from the key technical players on the market. But let’s also mention one fare aggregator (or metasearch engine) Skyscanner.
GDSs send general flight data, but some providers can reach more precise fare returns than GDSs for lower cost. Skyscanner API doesn’t have a subscription or query-driven payments. Instead, Skyscanner suggests its API users enroll in an affiliate program. If you pass their vetting process, you get access to a free set of APIs. Once you reach a certain revenue threshold, the service allows you to negotiate a commission based on your traffic and market proportion. While Skyscanner also provides car rental and hotel APIs, its strong point is its flight fare search. It comes in two main versions:
Browse Flight Prices. This set ships cached prices for an aggregated variety of origin-destination and time-frame queries, meaning that you can set up a flex search using these APIs. The drawback is the cache doesn’t update frequently for less popular route and date combinations. If the prices change, sometimes your users won’t be able to see updated info.
Live Flight Prices. The live pricing API, on the other hand, returns exact fares for any given moment. But you must query the exact time and route to retrieve prices. This feature comes in handy whenever you need to compare prices for specific dates and routes.
Cirium and FlightStats APIs
Another popular API for these purposes is by FlightStats, a global flight tracker and travel applications provider owned by Cirium. FlightStats APIs combine two main products:
FlightStats Flex APIs. This set of services mainly operates with actual flight data with real-time tracking which includes:
- Flight status and track
- Historical flight status
- Schedules and connections
- Airlines and airports
- Equipment (aircraft IATA codes, name, propulsion, etc.)
- Delay Index
- Ratings (performance ratings to define which flights are more likely to be on-time between given airports)
- FIDS (flight information display systems found in airports)
FlightStats Trip Data APIs. This set focuses on improving the itinerary experience for travelers and travel agents informing them about flight disruptions. These include alerts about flights and legs, especially in cases of connection problems and delays, to enable proactive reactions to these events.
FlightStats APIs are known in the development community as well documented and coherent. They allow for deep customization to tailor travel software to specific business and UX needs.
OAG is another major player in the flight schedules market. It currently has three APIs:
- Flight Info — the access to real time flight schedules
- Flight changes — tracks changes in schedules
- Flight Info Alerts — provides near real time scheduling changes
SITA is one of the major flight market technology providers that offers a decent set of APIs that mostly revolve around airport, baggage, and boarding information:
- Boarding passes
- Beacons (in-airport beacons)
- Flight tracking and info
- Wait time (expected passenger wait times in airport lines)
- Baggage tracking
- NDC APIs (SITA provides NDC systems for some airlines)
Also, SITA provides a pilot Passenger Name Matching API that helps airlines reconcile differences in passenger names written in their IDs and travel documents.
Retrieving flight information and airfares is also available for Orbitz affiliate partners.
Direct hotel booking with PMSs and channel managers
Main users: Larger OTAs, metasearch engines, niche OTAs, travel application providers
If you’re new to the world of hotel room distribution, spend five minutes to understand how the ecosystem works before diving deep into the APIs. We’ve made a video for that. If you know the basics, just skip our explainer.
How hospitality booking works (if you haven’t subscribed after the first video, now’s a great time to do it)
With that out of the way, let’s begin the next section, the name of which may sound a bit misleading because direct hotel booking is possible only if you connect to the hotel’s central reservation system. But the next step on the journey to being direct is channel management.
Direct connection via property management (PMS) and central reservation systems (CRS). A PMS is the main software environment for hotels. It usually includes reservation capabilities (CRS) and other modules that don’t work with distribution but help with internal hotel operations, like point of sale systems or front desk. As you may have guessed, direct connectivity via PMSs requires quite a lot of investment, because there are dozens of PMSs on the market and you may need integration with several of them if you want to have a large inventory.
More on how PMSs work
If you’re considering direct integration with hotels, check our article on Opera by Oracle PMS integration. It’s one of the largest PMS providers out there.
Connection via channel managers. Channel managers are systems that integrate with PMSs on one side and with online travel agencies or other distributors on the other. The main purpose of a channel manager is to allow hotels to distribute their properties across several channels (OTAs, TMCs, etc.), hence the name. As a travel distributor you can connect with channel managers given that certain hotels want to distribute with you and advocate your integration. The largest channel managers may feature thousands of hotels. Considering the nature of these connections, it’s still almost direct integration as channel managers just pass the information without adding their commissions for bookings.
We won’t describe any direct integrations with PMSs, but let’s have a look at a couple of notable channel managers.
SiteConnect API by SiteMinder Channel Manager
SiteMinder is one of the largest channel management providers for hotels. It allows hoteliers to connect their properties to the leading OTAs and GDSs via the cloud interface, increase direct bookings, and analyze performance.
While their packages can be extremely useful for hotels that strive for market visibility, SiteMinder also has SiteConnect API that mostly addresses OTAs and other end-user providers.
Cloudbeds is another large player in the channel management market with about 20,000 hotels in its portfolio. Cloudbeds has a REST API that exchanges data in JSON.
Besides, CloubBeds gives access to their APIs to application developers who integrate Cloudbeds software with third-party services.
Hotel booking APIs by aggregators: GDSs, connectivity providers, and switches
Main users: OTAs, metasearch engines, travel application providers
Read more here: Best Hotel Booking APIs
The second group of suppliers can be called aggregators. They collect data from many sources, including hotels, wholesalers (that we discuss below), and other aggregators. These aggregators can be generally broken down into two major groups.
Global Distribution Systems. While GDSs are more air travel focused, they feature quite a lot of hotels since corporate travel management companies (TMCs) tend to stick with GDSs and it was a sound move to include hotel inventory as well. While GDSs generally have large hotel inventories, they may miss some segments that are of a little interest to corporate travelers. Another drawback is that GDSs tend to have poor content, low-res images, lacking descriptions and amenity lists.
Connectivity providers and switches. Another major group of suppliers are different types of aggregators that get hotel reservation, availability, and content across many different sources. Sometimes aggregators work directly with hotels; sometimes they connect to other middlemen. But usually they have both. Going to aggregators is a smart move if you need a large inventory.
One of the subtypes of these aggregators are switches, the systems that in many ways are similar to channel managers. They connect to the hotel’s central reservation systems and reroute data from suppliers to distributors, allowing both to have a single point of contact, a switch. The main difference is that channel managers require you to agree to integration with a hotel directly, while switches can negotiate with you without involving hotels. Sometimes, the terms switch, aggregator, and connectivity provider are used interchangeably.
RateGain and Dhisco Switch
Dhisco by RateGain is a global switch that enables one-to-many distribution of hotel rooms connecting main OTAs, travel agencies, metasearch engines, and GDSs with hotel chains. Currently, the service has access to 125,000 properties from over 1,000 channels.
Hotel Aggregator API by MakCorps
MakCorps collects information about hotel prices from various suppliers and provides it to about 200 OTAs and other distributors. Hotel API covers hotel search and content from 1,000 providers in 30 markets. Also, MakCorps offers its Hotel Price Comparison API with hotel data for further comparison by price and guest rating.
DerbySoft: connectivity APIs for booking and content
DerbySoft is a connectivity provider that acts as a single point of contact both for hotels and for travel sellers. It connects with hotel groups, has integrations with some PMSs like Oracle Opera or TravelClick, and provides access to this inventory for more than 150 online travel agencies, resellers, and destination management companies. Besides booking and availability, DerbySoft also has access to content from about 20 hotel groups and chains including Hilton, Radisson, and Marriott.
Wholesale hotel booking APIs with bed banks
Main users: OTAs, metasearch engines, travel application providers
Bed banks (or wholesalers) are among the main sources to access hotel booking and content. Wholesalers purchase inventories in bulk and then resell them to distributors. This allows hotels to efficiently manage their revenues and fill up rooms, while bed banks get access to inventory at lower rates.
Hotelbeds Group APIs
Hotelbeds is one of the largest accommodation, transfers, and activities distributors. Its APIs cover more than 120 markets globally operating in about 185 countries. There are three main hotel-related APIs that Hotelbeds suggests, connecting to about 199,000 hotels worldwide.
Hotel Content API. This API returns both static and dynamic information. Static info includes hotel descriptions, pictures, addresses, etc. The dynamic part retrieves data that can be changed at any moment: availability details, prices, fees, etc.
Hotel Booking API. The API complements the previous one enabling all aspects of the booking procedure, from requesting room availability to receiving booking lists and making cancellations.
Cache API. This API is aimed at providing massive amounts of data for travel packages or flex room searches. Thus, the API returns a specific snapshot of data captured at a given moment.
WebBeds: JacTravel API, Destinations of the World API, and others
WebBeds is the second largest bed bank, which owns several smaller wholesale brands: JacTravel, Sunhotels, Destinations of the world, FIT Ruums, Lots of Hotels, TotalStay, and Umrah Holidays.
JacTravel is a large hotel booking distributor that provides access to rooms in 10,000 destinations and partners with over 250,000 hotels and accommodation providers. They offer an XML API with connection to 28,500 hotels, 30 hotel chains, and 30 global third party suppliers. While they don’t have openly available API documentation to evaluate, the general offering entails:
- Both live and cached data retrieval
- Hotel info returns with photos and descriptions in four languages (English, German, Spanish, and French)
- High speed API response
DOTW is a wholesale provider that aggregates room availability in about 160,000 hotels and apartments and covers more than 10,000 destinations globally. While DOTW operates in all major destinations, it’s major focus is considered to be Asia. So, if you plan to emphasize such countries as the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, this supplier should be the first to explore. What kinds of features does the XML API make available?
- Hotel info (location and description)
- Booking info exchange (dates of stay, tourists, number of rooms)
- Pricing info
- Booking requests and booking cancellations
- Sending order comments
Bonotel is a niche wholesale distributor that is solely targeted at luxury and boutique hotel rooms. Currently, Bonotel API accesses more than 2,600 travel suppliers globally that operate within the luxury segment and provide offer access to hotel content and data. To explore the API that Bonotel suggests, you should contact the supplier directly.
HotelsPro is a bed bank with a focus on tour operators and travel agencies, selling hotel properties of different sizes and different types, including resorts, and luxury hotels. You can also source travel ancillaries. HotelsPro provides access to over 600,000 hotels across 80,000 destinations in 205 countries. HotelsPro provides access to over 1,000,000 hotels across 70,000 destinations. Ancillaries include car rentals, tours, attractions, sports, and activities. HotelsPro offers two types of hotel APIs that support REST and JSON: Coral API for hotel data aggregation, and Cosmos API for content.
Travco XML API
Travco, one of the oldest hotel wholesalers, focuses on the European market and provides accommodation and ancillary bookings from over 12,000 hotels at over 1000 destinations. Their XML API provides access to hotel properties (including hotels, resorts and retreats) and travel ancillaries (like transfers, tours, and restaurants). Also, this API allows for content mapping into nine languages.
You’ll find a detailed description of these wholesalers in our dedicated article.
Partner rooms reservations: APIs by OTAs
Main users: small OTAs, non-hospitality travel providers, channel managers, property management systems
The final option is to partner with some big OTA and use their inventory. It works for really small businesses or organizations that want to distribute rooms, while their core service is something else (like airlines). This option also works for travel bloggers. You tell about your perfect trip to Iceland and integrate a Booking.com widget putting forward the booking of that lovely cottage next to a volcano. Nice!
There are two main players dictating the rules of the OTAs market: Booking Holdings (Booking.com, Kayak, Momondo, etc.) and Expedia (Expedia.com, Hotel.com, Trivago, etc.) If you mostly look at hotel booking, it’s worth working with these two players. Not all APIs are publicly available and you’ll have to become their partner to fully leverage their capacities.
These two giants both have their partnership networks. Expedia Partner Central is aimed at hotels and Expedia Partner Solutions at online travel agencies and other travel software providers. Booking.com supports APIs for smaller travel agencies and channel managers.
Expedia Partner Central
Expedia Connectivity APIs are built with the idea of streamlining property updates both for hotels and ultimately Expedia end users.
Booking availability, retrieval, and notification. This set of APIs helps hotels automate booking by instantly updating property availability and sending notifications as soon as someone reserves a room through the Expedia network.
Product management. This set of APIs allows hotels to instantly send any edits and updates about room types and their configurations, onboard new properties, or add images.
Hotwire connection. Hotwire is an OTA that belongs to Expedia. So, connectivity APIs additionally cover this provider and allow hoteliers to update inventory, set rates, and display availability.
Expedia Partner Solutions API or EPS (former Affiliate Network or EAN)
The Partner Solutions API named EPS Rapid provides access for online travel agencies that want to incorporate hotel booking support into their products. The API will allow for:
- Receiving hotel lists
- Booking and booking management
- Content and geography access
- Retrieving itineraries
- Canceling reservations
- Receiving room images and hotel info
- Defining payment types.
You can also access the VRBO (formerly HomeAway) inventory, which is an alternative travel OTA that connects travelers with homeowners in about 190 countries. The service accessed about 2 million homes worldwide. Like Airbnb, HomeAway focuses on owners of single properties rather than hotels and chains. Not to be outdone, Airbnb provides an API for owners of single properties who want to employ Airbnb booking capacities.
Additionally, there’s an affiliate program at Orbitz, which is a travel metasearch and aggregator belonging to Expedia. Their engine allows for sourcing about 260,000 bookable properties and over 400 airlines.
Booking.com provides two sets of services – for their affiliate partners and for channel managers. Currently, Booking.API for affiliates allows for retrieving and booking hotel rooms from the Booking inventory. You may want to use only accommodation data without booking capabilities, sending visitors to Booking.com. If you want to process bookings on your side, you must be PCI-compliant.
Booking Connectivity APIs is an entirely different beast. This set of APIs is created for channel managers and property management system providers. You may meet them in the video above. Basically, if you build channel manager software, this API is a must… given that you want to connect your clients to Booking.com. You may check their documentation. In brief, Connectivity supports:
- Rates and availability
- Problem reporting
You can read more about Booking,com APIs and other partnership solutions it provides in our dedicated article.
Another OTA owned by Booking Holdings is Agoda. It’s also worth contacting the Agoda team separately to understand how their supply differs from what Booking already offers.
Priceline focuses on online travel agencies only or any other travel tech suppliers that help their customer find travel related data. Currently, the Priceline API allows for retrieving and booking:
- Cars for rent
- Vacation packages
As Priceline is owned by Booking Holdings, it’s worth considering both.
Hotel and room mapping APIs: GIATA and Gimmonix
Main users: OTAs and TMCs receiving hotel data from multiple sources
Read more here: Hotel Mapping Tools Explained
If you’re sourcing hotel data from multiple suppliers, for instance from two bed banks, or from a bed bank and a couple of aggregators, inevitably, some of the properties will duplicate as most suppliers have intersecting inventories. The problem is, different suppliers may have different naming conventions for hotel ID and room types. And you don’t want your users to see the same property with slightly different room naming and prices in search results. You have to solve the mapping problem, i.e. map and remove duplicates of the same hotels, rooms, and content coming from different sources. You can do it yourself, but there are APIs and systems for that as well.
GIATA is a hotel content management provider. Their solution to the mapping problem is creating so-called MultiCodes. GIATA has universal IDs that are mapped to different codes, geocodes, and addresses from over 500 suppliers, including bed banks, OTAs, operators, etc. MultiCodes data is available via XML API. They also have room-level mapping that addresses descriptions and other hotel content.
Gimmonix Mapping.Works APIs
Mapping.Works is a set of APIs that help both property owners and OTAs map their inventories. Unlike GIATA, the provider employs ML-based text analysis to extract meaning from various inventory descriptions and also operates on two levels of mapping: hotel mapping and room mapping.
Car rental booking: Rentalcars.com by Booking Holdings and CarTrawler integration to reach the largest car rental pools
Main users: OTAs, travel applications providers, hotels, airlines
Read more here: Car Rental APIs
As you’ve noticed, multiple players on the market are bundling their services with car rentals. GDS systems and main OTAs already support car rentals.
Rentalcars.com is currently the largest provider in the sphere owned by Booking Holdings. If you look at embedding car rental support only into your website, it’s worth considering their services as Rentalcars works across about 60,000 locations around the world in 163 countries.
Rentalcars offers two main options: 1) put a customizable banner on your website, 2) become Rentalcars Connect partner and then leverage available technology through the API. The first option obviously isn’t an API and eventually, your users will be landing on Rentalcars.com to complete their reservation.
The second option, on the other hand, isn’t limited to a single API. The connect partners can utilize full-blown Rentalcars product integration and services including dynamic widgets, search panels, etc.
CarTrawler is a fully B2B service that connects over 2,000 travel agents, travel retailers (OTAs), and international airlines with local car rental suppliers. Currently, the company operates in 43,500 locations in 190 countries.
Also, there are car rental APIs by tech service providers, which you can study in more detail in the linked article.
Business travel: travel management and planning APIs from Concur to track expenses and integrate itineraries
Main users: applications providers that target business travelers, OTAs
The main player in the business travel market is Concur. The company offers a cloud-based travel management platform that helps businesses manage trips, track travel expenses, book flight seats, hotel rooms, and rent cars.
Concur strives to engage the development community in building and incorporating their applications with Concur business profiles. How does this work? Concur API aims at two main use cases:
Travel and itinerary support for business travelers. As business travelers book hotels and flights through providers’ apps, their travel data synchronizes with a Concur traveler profile. For instance, if a user has a business trip flying United Airlines, he or she may connect a United MileagePlus profile to Concur to make business trip reservations straight from the United Airlines Website. This way, all business trip data is sent directly to Concur.
Expense Management. All payments that business travelers make during their trips are automatically synchronized with a Concur profile to track expenses or pay from a corporate bank account. Uber, for instance, has integrated Concur for these purposes.
Concur integration into the Uber app. Image credit: Uber
All apps that have Concur API integration are featured in the dedicated App Center that Concur clients use.
Tripit is another product by Concur which doesn’t limit its target audience to business travelers only and aims at all types of users. The system consolidates a user’s travel data like hotel, flight, and restaurant confirmations and turns it into a neatly organized itinerary. Also, they provide weather data and points program information.
Tripit API works pretty much the same as the main Concur API. For instance, it allows for embedding an “Add to Tripit” link on the travel booking confirmation page of your website or adding Tripit travel plans to a website or applications, enabling users to configure itineraries through Tripit without leaving your resource.
Reviews and ratings: TripAdvisor Content API for social proof
Main users: OTAs, hotels, travel applications providers
We’ve covered the best UX practices in booking and reservations websites. One of the main points is that 70 percent of people must look at about 20 reviews before they book travel or accommodation services online. This social proof is hard to achieve with your own reviews system if you are a hotel, for instance, or another property provider. But TripAdvisor is a trusted source containing over 200 million reviews.
TripAdvisor Content API allows businesses to incorporate the main content types that the service collects from its users and update them in real time. TripAdvisor works with accommodations, restaurants, and attractions providing the following types of content through their API:
- Location ID
- Name and address
- Latitude and longitude
- Reading and creating reviews (basically, users will be able to leave reviews through your website or app)
- Ratings and awards (TripAdvisor ranking, subratings, the number of reviews the rating is based on, etc.)
- Categories and subcategories (price level, accommodation category, attraction type, restaurants, and cuisine).
Things-to-do APIs: tours, attractions, experiences, and restaurants
Main users: OTAs, local travel providers, travel applications providers
Like hotels, T&A supply is broad. There are OTAs and niche companies that specialize in connecting travel agents with suppliers, suggesting interfaces, APIs, or both options to configure and source tours. On top of that, these services let you configure custom travel packages that include T&A, accommodation, and even car rentals. To get more information on tours and attractions APIs, check out our comprehensive article on the topic.
There are two main sources for finding attractions and things to do for your customers. These are 1) local services like London Theatre API and 2) larger vendors that aggregate and share data combined with ticket purchasing support.
Watch our video about the tours and attraction market
Bokun is a tourism reseller platform that partly operates as a marketplace where local travel providers and property owners connect with OTAs and agents. In addition, the service provides channel management services. And Bokun API allows travel agencies to request:
- car rentals
- shopping cart
This set of features enables configuring custom travel packages via the API interface.
Trekksoft focuses solely on tours and activities. The company provides graphical interfaces for local T&A providers and tourism offices. And TrekkSoft API can be configured to supply resellers with all available T&A, including booking capacities.
Rezdy is another T&A service for channel management that connects suppliers with travel agents and travel agencies. Rezdy API is also divided into two categories: supplier or OTA. Currently, the API can also be used for bundling packages as it provides access to:
- Car rentals
- Shuttle buses
While Rezgo may look like a common T&A channel management solution, it provides an open source front-end booking engine and an open source parser. However, to use that API you must have a paid Rezgo account. The API is dedicated to building T&A booking solutions that don’t exceed 4,000 requests per hour.
Ticketmaster is the largest events booking provider on the market. It covers concerts, festivals, plays, and sports events across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, other European countries, and more. The service claims to reach about 230, 000 events worldwide. Back in 2016, it released multiple APIs to let third parties embed the Ticketmaster events search and booking support into their products. There are three main ways you can work with Ticketmaster APIs:
- Use Discovery API. This is aimed solely at an information search. You will be able to source events, filter them by location, type, and retrieve images. There’s also International Discovery API for European events. International discovery doesn’t work for the UK, Ireland, the US, and Canada.
- Use Partner API on top of the Discovery. This one allows your customers to directly book from your resource, but you’ll have to enroll in the Ticketmaster affiliate program.
- Use 3rd Party Integration API if you are an event provider and want to sell your inventory via Ticketmaster network.
Ingresso TicketSwitch API
The product has rich coverage for events, seating availability, and supports ticket purchasing and reservations. Ingresso sources ticket data and sends reservations directly through venue ticketing systems, which ensures real-time updates. The API is used by Amazon Tickets.
Viator is a tours and activities (T&A) agency acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014. The OTA accesses about over 200,000 activities and tours around the world, including unconventional ones (e.g. “real Prague, a 3-hour tour to see the reverse side of the city”). The APIs are shipped in two versions: merchant solutions that allow for selling tours directly and an affiliate program where the end merchant is Viator.
This is another T&A OTA that accesses about 32 thousand activities in more than 7 thousand destinations. GetYourGuide’s power side links specific attractions and activities with locally related ones. For instance, Manhattan cruises will be linked with Empire State Building visits. If you’re a local travel provider, the service requires you to have live-streaming T&A availability. GetYourGuide API is available to partners only.
Klook is a T&A provider that mostly focuses on Asian tours with destinations ranging from China and Shanghai to Japan and Singapore. The company suggests OTAs enroll in an affiliate program and get access to the T&A database via either a graphical interface or an API.
Musement is a wide-range T&A platform that combines attractions, tours, nightlife activities, local food and wine places, sports+, and music events. The API service provides access to more than 5 thousand deals in 300 cities in 60 countries around the world. The API and affiliate offers allows you to embed transactions support in your applications.
Tiqets is an agency that focuses on digital distribution of museum and attraction tickets. The API allows for retrieving tickets in specified locations and searching the nearest tickets.
Ceetiz is a T&A provider that aims at both B2C and B2B markets. Currently, the service mostly focuses mostly on partnerships partnerships between various travel providers that work with end travelers and want to enhance their existing services with T&A supply.
The main option for those who want to add restaurant table booking is to apply for the OpenTable Affiliate Program and use their API. It will allow you to source all OpenTable options, but users will still have to book through OpenTable.com. Once you reach over 100 monthly reservations as an affiliate, you will be able to leverage revenue-sharing opportunities. However, not all applicants are becoming partners. That’s why there’s an unofficial OpenTable API. It supports the same set of data and doesn’t require contacting OpenTable directly.
If the restaurant industry is your primary interest, check out our article on restaurant reservation APIs.
Public transportation: APIs to support the get-around experience
Main users: global and local travel applications providers
Read more here: Public Transport APIs
Not all travelers rent cars. And with the recent trend of making cities more pedestrian-friendly, especially in Europe, the use of public transport is a big part of the travel experience. As we mentioned, Uber has its own API to incorporate the “request the ride” function into third-party applications. Today the API is used in such familiar products as Google Maps, Transit App, and TripAdvisor. What about public transport APIs? (Check the link for more detail.) There are multiple options to consider.
Embedding Google Maps is quite common today. The Google APIs are open, well-documented, and widely used across industries. However, Google also provides APIs for tracking public transport routes and schedules.
General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). The API is used both by applications providers and – very important – transit agencies that share public transport data to let users instantly configure their get-around experience. This API sends static only data, which means users can see schedules and routes, but can’t track disruptions.
GTFS Realtime. As the name clearly states, this extension to the main service aims at providing real-time data coming from transit agencies about delays and schedule changes.
While this sounds great, you can’t expect it to work in the lion’s share of locations around the world. So, if you build apps and want to deliver extra value with real-time public transport updates, it’s worth considering local alternatives.
Local APIs from owners and consortiums
You can expect to find decent APIs from companies operating in your target regions. While the quality and standards alignment of these APIs varies, they can provide real-time updates and even additional information like availability of car sharing or bikes near a railway station. Some examples of these are APIs from Dutch Railways and French National Railways, that update in real time about disruptions and engineering work.
Sometimes the APIs are born as a result of a consortium of data owners and reusers. One such example is OpenTripPlanner, the API providing in-depth understanding of city transportation.
How to Choose the Right Travel API
We’ve covered just the tip of the available travel APIs iceberg to provide you with basic information on integration capabilities that the travel community shares. So, regardless of whether you use one of the products mentioned above or look for something specific, there are general recommendations for choosing a suitable API for your travel business.
- Look at popularity. ProgrammableWeb suggests looking at Google Trends to understand how popular the product is. Popularity isn’t only a proof of quality but also the foundation for a community that builds around a product. The more developers using the API, the more pitfalls your team will be able to resolve through communication with fellow engineers. Another good sign is a dedicated forum letting developers discuss issues there.
- Check API marketplaces. The travel API market is already a large one, and there are dedicated marketplaces emerging. For instance, Yappes, one such platform, provides an interface to search and evaluate some popular APIs that are available. Currently, it has around 60 travel APIs, both public and private. The service is in Beta, but according to Rajagopal Somasundaram, CTO and co-founder at Yappes, the platform has a potential to become “the largest aggregator of the Travel APIs and a platform which provides seamless Discovery and Distribution of Travel related APIs. This will be achieved by providing API Discovery, API Creation & Hosting, API Distribution and Deal Rooms (License/Price/Terms&Conditions Negotiations)”.
- Evaluate documentation. Look for elaborate documentation with FAQs. Some providers don’t showcase the documentation upfront, requiring additional contracts. If the documentation is not public, make sure that you’ll be able to play with a demo. Expedia, for instance, allows you to try its public APIs right in the documentation section.
- Check for standards compliance. Even though an API may provide a great feature list and functionality, ensure that your developers have checked the main REST and SOAP standards compliance.
- Consider customization. How customizable is the API or a set of them? Must you use the entire bundle or you can choose specific data records that you want to retrieve? FlightStats, Sabre, and Amadeus APIs are well recognized for their customization potential.
- Notice limitations. These may be regional, language, or partnership-related limitations. Most owners provide this information asking you to contact their support teams or describe what kinds of limitations are there.
- Consider additional APIs for specific tasks. Don’t settle for conventional API services only. Valentin Dombrovsky from Travelabs recommends “being always on the outlook for opportunities on the market – sometimes 3rd party APIs and solutions can help in solving the problems that you have tried to solve yourself for a long time. For instance, there are companies like Sift Science or Spreedly tacking quite specific needs for fraud prevention and smooth payments. Sometimes you can find solutions for your part of the industry like Mapping.Works for those who work with multiple suppliers of hotel inventory or AirGateway for those who need a solution to work with IATA’s NDC protocol.”
As the world and the travel industry grows increasingly more connected, application programming interfaces and the right approach to working with them define whether you source the right data and eventually deliver enough value to your customers.
Interested in travel APIs? Check our other pieces on the topic: